So what would you make with a bunch of fresh beetroot, brown lentils, puff pastry, cream cheese, cucumber and smoked salmon trout? This was my final challenge in the Freshly Blogged campaign.
Admittedly, the inspiration took a while to hit. Usually there’s an obvious combination that jumps out at me but this time the ingredients were a little more obscure!
Given that we had to prepare two “fine dining” dishes using the ingredients I finally decided on a starter of puff pastry tartlets with a herby cottage cheese filling topped with caramelised beetroot. The other dish, the main course, was a stack of delicious lentil mash and flaked smoked salmon trout, topped with herby cucumber cottage cheese and served with a rich butter sauce. I included lots of herbs and spices in the dishes (I particularly love the combination of cinnamon and beetroot in the tartlets) for extra flavour and flair.
It’s the end of the Freshly Blogged road for me, and I’d like to offer a huge and sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has followed my progress, voted for and supported me over the last 9 weeks. I enjoyed the campaign immensely, made some fantastic new friends along the way and best thing of all is that I’m more inspired than ever to keep creating in the kitchen. Thanks to all of the brainstorming I’ve been doing since June I have accumulated a whole notebook of ideas which I look forward to working on over the coming months, and of course I can’t wait to sharing my new creations with you too!
CARAMELISED BEETROOT TARTLETS / SALMON TROUT AND LENTIL STACKS
For the caramelised beetroot tartlets:
- 4 small beetroot (about 400g)
- 400g puff pastry
- 1 large egg
- 125g smooth cottage cheese
- 2 tsp (10ml) chopped French chives
- 1 tsp (5ml) chopped thyme + extra for garnishing
- black pepper
- 3 tbsp (45ml) balsamic vinegar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
For the salmon trout and lentil stacks:
- 180g brown lentils
- 4 cups water
- 75g cucumber, seeds removed and grated
- 1 tbsp (15ml) chopped dill
- 125g smooth cottage cheese
- 1 tbsp (15ml) sunflower oil
- 400g lightly smoked salmon trout (frozen)
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp (45ml) chopped coriander
- 1 tsp (5ml) ground cumin
- ¼ cup (60ml) white vinegar
- ¼ cup (60ml) vegetable stock
- 100g butter, cubed and chilled
- 1 tbsp (15ml) chopped parsley
- 2 tsp (10ml) chopped chives
To make the caramelised beetroot tartlets: (makes 6 tartlets)
1.) Preheat your oven to 190°C. Peel the beetroot and cut into chunks.
2.) Fold the puff pastry into thirds and press lightly with your hands. The pastry should be 1cm thick. Use a 7cm round cutter to cut out 3 circles. Gather up the excess pastry roll out again to a 1cm thickness. Cut out another 3 circles.
3.) Place the pastry circles on a greased baking tray. Use a sharp knife to score a circle on the top of each one, 1/2cm from the edge. Whisk the egg with a fork, then brush around the edge of each circle. Bake for 30 minutes, or until risen and golden.
4.) Place the beetroot chunks in a pot. Cover with boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes or until just tender.
5.) Meanwhile, combine the cottage cheese with the chopped chives, chopped thyme and black pepper.
6.) Drain the beetroot chunks. Place them back in the saucepan with the balsamic vinegar and ground cinnamon. Cook until the vinegar has reduced and coats the beetroot, about 5 minutes.
7.) Allow the baked puff circles to cool for 5 minutes. Top each circle with a generous teaspoon of herby cottage cheese and caramelised beetroot. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately.
To make the salmon trout & lentil stacks: (makes 4 stacks)
1.) Rinse the lentils, then place in a pot with the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender.
2.) Squeeze any excess water from the cucumber. Combine the cucumber, dill and cottage cheese in a bowl and mix until combined. Set aside in the fridge.
3.) Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan. Add the frozen smoked salmon trout. Cover the frying pan and cook for 7 minutes, turning regularly. Once the fish has cooked through, remove the skin and flake. Keep warm.
4.) Drain the lentils and mash with a good pinch of salt and pepper, the coriander and cumin. Return the lentils to the saucepan and heat for 3 minutes while stirring. Set aside in a warm place.
5.) To make the sauce place the vinegar and vegetable stock in a small saucepan. Allow to boil gently until the liquid has reduced and you have about 2 tablespoons left. Add the chilled butter, 2 cubes at a time, while whisking continuously. Do not add more butter until the previous cubes have melted into the sauce. Continue until all of the butter has been incorporated, then whisk in the parsley and chives. **
6.) Use a metal chef’s ring to assemble your stacks. Grease the ring, then add about 1/8 of the lentil mash and smooth into an even layer. Add 1/4 of the flaked fish and press down lightly. Then add another layer of lentil mash. Carefully lift the ring off the stack and top with a rounded tablespoon of herby cottage cheese. Repeat with remaining lentil mash and fish. Garnish each stack with fresh chives, drizzle with butter sauce and serve immediately.
**A note on the sauce – this can be a tricky sauce to make, and if you add the butter too quickly you may find that the sauce liquefies and separates. If this happens to you this is what you do: place a tablespoon of the liquefied sauce in a cold bowl and whisk until it thickens and becomes creamy. Then, gradually whisk in the remaining sauce / butter a tablespoon at a time until the sauce is creamy. I learnt this trick from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child et al (having had some butter sauce disasters in the past), it works!